A Brief Study of Freddie Green's Unique Timbre

By Ro Takayama/edited by Michael Pettersen

The sound of Freddie Green's rhythm guitar style consisted of two basic elements:

  1. "Full tone", usually on D string with clear intonation, sustain controlled by the left hand, and the characteristic "D-string" timbre.
  2. "Muted string tone", with no clear intonation, no sustain, but very percussive.

The sound of a guitar is generated by strumming/striking/picking the strings.  When a string is set into motion, the vibration moves the bridge, which moves the guitar's top, which moves the air within and near the guitar body. The resultant air vibration is the sound and timbre of the instrument.

String movement is a complex. The primary two motions are parallel to the guitar top, and perpendicular to the guitar top. Normally, a guitarist positions the guitar body vertically, strums downward on the strings, and makes the strings vibrate primarily parallel to the guitar top. But Freddie Green held his guitar so that the guitar top was more horizontal than vertical.  When he strummed the strings they moved perpendicular to the top. This perpendicular string motion produces a different timbre than strings moving parallel to the top.

By using a high quality, acoustic arch top guitar, equipped with higher string action and medium-to-heavy gauge, bronze or brass round-wound strings, and by strumming so that the strings move perpendicular to the guitar top, a guitarist will be on the right path to emulating Freddie Green's timbre.

The Style | Recordings | Biographical Info | Photos | Additional Info | Contact Us | Post Comments | Home Page